Brookshire Wedding Tips: A Traditional Guide to Who Pays for What

Sign at entrance of wedding ceremony that reads,

When Indian politician, G. Janardhana Reddy, learned early in 2016 that his daughter, Brahmani, was finally ready to tie the knot, he decided that he would pay, and that he’d spare no expense.  To finance the affair, he mortgaged some of his biggest property holdings in Bangalore and Singapore.  The wedding included:

  • Gold-plated invitation cards, each with its own LCD screen (cost: $150,000)
  • A wedding sari to die for (cost: just shy of $11 million)
  • Jewelry for the bride (cost: $14 million)
  • 3,000 bouncers plus 300 policemen and a bomb squad with sniffer dogs (cost: undisclosed)

The total cost to give away his daughter’s hand came to about 5 billion rupees, or $74 million.  With that price tag, Reddy was hoping his daughter’s wedding would be the year’s most expensive—but he wasn’t even close.  That distinction went to the Russian wedding of groom Said Gutseriev and bride Khadija Uzhakhova in March.  Khadija’s oil-tycoon father, Mikhail, shelled out about $1 billion of his reported net worth (according to Forbes) of $6.3 billion.  Like Reddy, Gutseriev footed the entire bill.

What Does the Average American Wedding Cost?

No American wedding last year came close to these Indian and Russian affairs, but weddings don’t come cheap.  On average, a wedding in the United States costs $26,645.  This doesn’t include the cost of the honeymoon.  The big-ticket items are venue, catering and rentals ($11,944), jewelry ($4,133), photography and video ($2,835) and flowers and decorations ($1,563).

So, Who Pays For What?

No two weddings are precisely the same, and the rules which determine who traditionally pays the bill for wedding expenses vary greatly from one wedding to another.  For example, tradition dictates that the family of the bride pays for the majority of expenses, but that might change if the groom’s family owns a mansion in the Hamptons and the bride’s family has a row house in Queens.  That said, tradition is clear about who is supposed to pay for what.  According to the etiquette experts at Brides magazine, here are the traditional rules for how wedding expenses are divided:

The Bride’s Family

It’s common knowledge that the bride’s family is expected to pay for the majority of wedding expenses, but many people don’t know that this tradition is an historical remnant of the system of dowries.  Through most of western history, women could not inherit or own property.  For this reason, the only way a father with daughters could protect his wealth, property and land was through marriage.  In exchange for this benefit, the families would negotiate a price—the dowry—paid by the bride’s family to the groom’s family.  To further secure this new alliance between the two families, the bride’s father would also pay for the wedding expenses.

Although dowries have disappeared, except in several Asian countries (notably, in India), the tradition of the bride’s family footing most of the bill has not.  Today, etiquette dictates that the bride’s family will pay for:

  • The wedding dress and accessories;
  • The bride’s gifts to the bridegroom and her bridesmaids;
  • The wedding planner or coordinator;
  • Invitations (and any other correspondence);
  • Flowers and decorations;
  • All reception costs (include venue rental costs and catering);
  • All photography and videography costs;
  • The groom’s wedding ring;
  • Music (for both the church and the reception);
  • The bridesmaid’s luncheon;
  • Accommodations for all of the bridesmaids; and
  • Any transportation related to the wedding and the reception

The Groom’s Family

The groom’s family traditionally pays for much less, but they are responsible for some of the expenses.  These include:

  • The bride’s engagement ring and wedding ring;
  • The groom’s attire;
  • The groom’s gifts to his groomsmen (and, if he chooses, their attire);
  • The groom’s gift to the bride;
  • Boutonnieres and corsages for wedding party and family members;
  • The officiant’s fee;
  • The marriage license;
  • Costs for the rehearsal dinner;
  • Lodging for the groomsmen; and
  • Transportation and lodging for the groom’s family and the groomsmen


Planning a wedding can be a challenge—there are a thousand details to consider at a time when both families are under a considerable amount of stress.  You can substantially reduce that stress and focus more on the joyousness of the day when you get expert help.

Brookshire has helped hundreds of couples handle all the planning and design for their weddings, and offers several affordable, all-inclusive wedding packages that combine beauty, elegance and entertainment.  For more information about our wedding services, contact us today.